Save the Oaks: ‘We’re rescuing 30K oak tree saplings – but can do more with your help’

Following news reports earlier this year that 750K oak saplings were facing destruction as the UK Government had reneged on promises of a huge national tree planting scheme,  Extinction Rebellion Rewilding’s Save the Oaks campaign today announced that it has put in an initial order for 30,000 oak saplings having crowdfunded more than £10K so far. [1] [2] 

At the same time, having secured a substantially reduced cost of 22p per oak sapling from Maelor Forest Nurseries, Save the Oaks is extending its community focused campaign so that it can gift more saplings for free to people who have access to suitable English oak tree planting locations across the UK. 

Those wanting to get involved can donate and/or apply to become a tree guardian

Oak saplings at Maelor Forest Nuseries. Credit Rob McBride

“The support we’ve seen is a testament to how a community can come together in difficult times. From the applications we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that people want to act for a better future, one where humanity and nature are connected,” said Natasha Somers, a volunteer from Save the Oaks.  

“Oaks are symbolic of strength and resilience, qualities which we will need going into our collective future. With that in mind, we are inviting more people to get involved in this next phase of the campaign – we want to give anyone that wants to plant and care for some oaks the chance to take part.”

Save the Oaks particularly welcomes applications that honour those who have lost their lives to Covid 19, native trees facing extinction including ash affected by dieback, and the many ancient trees being destroyed for the HS2 train line despite protests. [3] [4] The campaign has received endorsements from authors such as Robert MacFarlane and Lucy Jones, as well as folk musician, Sam Lee, as well as over 270 donations from people and community groups.

Mike Harvey, Managing Director of Maelor Forest Nurseries Ltd, said: “We are delighted that these oak saplings have found good homes. We were devastated at the prospect of having to destroy plants, which we had spent two years growing and nurturing, only to find they ultimately were being left without a future for reasons beyond our control. To leave the crop in the field and remove it unsold in its third year would have been prohibitively costly, but thanks to the interest in the trees we have been able to find a home for most of them, as well as our following crop. A fresh crop of acorns will be sown once the trees are removed.”

“We had several charities and organisations approach us for these trees with Extinction Rebellion Rewilding securing the largest of these orders. Tree planting is an absolute necessity if we are to mitigate our impact on the environment.”

Who will be planting oak saplings?

Out of the 30,000 oak saplings ordered for this planting season (November 2020 to March 2021), there have been more than 160 requests so far accepted from people offering homes for them.

Calderdale Youth Strikers getting ready for planting. L to R: Anna Vasey aged 14, Isla Lay aged 14 holding Meg the dog, Evie Guha aged 11, Leela Guha aged 14, Martha Kidd aged 13. Photo credit May Molteno

With distribution points being arranged across the country, examples of those homes include: 

  • Groundwork South and North Tyneside – Tyne and Wear – 50 saplings – These trees would be planted at an environmental education centre which exists to help people connect with nature. The site is already sensitively managed to balance conservation with community enjoyment and education.
  • Wild Narberth – Pembrokeshire – 100 saplings – We plan to plant and raise awareness of the climate and ecological crisis, working together with local schools and nurseries and raise community spirit. 
  • Exeter XR Samba Band – Devon – 5 saplings – For the love of trees and community spirit: We rehearse in local parks where the trees provide us with shelter on sunny or rainy days, they give us energy for our drumming, and we give our energy to stopping their destruction.
  • Holme House Farm Co-Housing Group – Cumbria – 50 saplings – We are restoring and extending native woodland on our community land. It will create a link in a wildlife corridor along a river protecting the banks and linking two ancient woodlands. It will be enjoyed by us and local residents who use the adjacent rights of way.
  • Marlow District Scouts – Buckinghamshire – 100 saplings – Our remote and rural campsite, provides outdoors and camping experiences for youth groups, schools, Scouts, Guides and Duke of Edinburgh. For many children it is their first and sometimes only experience of camping in the peace & quiet of the countryside. 
  • East Cleveland Arts CIC – Cleveland – 100 saplings – Working with Beyond Housing, our local housing association, the trees would still be there long after we are all gone and would take pride of place in what is now a gorgeously regenerated public space We will also be using some of the trees to help establish as community garden and art space in the village of Brotton where we are based.
  • Calderdale Youth Climate Strikers – West Yorkshire – 1000 saplings – An active group of 20 young people aged 8-14 who have been working together for two years organising monthly climate strikes here. They decided they wanted to take practical positive action locally and chose to plant and care for trees. They see this as a way of fostering engagement from other young people.
  • Ekah Foundation CIC – Lancashire – 500 saplings – We work with people on the margins of society who understand the importance of trees.
  • Ian Atkinson – Worcestershire – 1,000 saplings – Ian is creating a new woodland across 8 acres with around 1,000 oaks from Save the Oaks, alongside another 2,500 native trees species, in wavy lines with the Extinction Rebellion symbol plotted out in Scots Pine in the centre.
  • Brigantia Group – Cumbria – 1,000 saplings – A group in the process of forming a co-operative composed of tree planters and people who care deeply about the ecology of the land. They have a mission to increase the woodland density of the uplands and biodiversity, and to be a force working towards the management of the land for the common good.
  • Long Lands Common – 1,000 saplings – Yorkshire – Long Lands Common is in the process of creating a Community Benefits Society to buy 30 acres of farmland on the urban fringe between Harrogate & Knaresborough. They have so far raised £360K with widespread support for the project locally and around the world. The purchase of the fields and planting of a community woodland and nature reserve will be of benefit to the local communities, educational for the school groups involved and encourage wildlife habitats. 
  • Laughton Greenwood – 1,000 saplings – East Sussex – Group restoring 171 acres of ancient woodland. The aim is to benefit the community in the widest sense from managing wetlands to mitigate flooding risks downstream, to improving air quality, capturing carbon and providing some recreation space. 
  • Hardwick Estate – Oxfordshire – 1000 saplings – We will plant the 1000 saplings from Save the Oaks amongst other varieties of native species as part of the strategy to have a diversity of trees on the estate and also to mitigate the risk of full reliance on one variety. 

Separate to Save the Oaks, a multitude of aligned groups and individuals have also raised money and bought saplings including:  

  • Three thousand trees (XR Ely and XR Cambridge), who in late November rescued 3,000 oak saplings so that they could distribute them as part of 4,000 native tree saplings to over 60 landowners in Cambridgeshire.
  • Fellowship of the Trees, who aim to restore, regenerate, protect as well as educate to ensure a world which is abundant, adaptable and thriving for future generations. Their original vision was to rehome 1,000 oaks which quickly became 2,000 due to donations. 


Rob McBride, a volunteer for Save the Oaks who recently went to see the almost one million two year old saplings in their current home at the nursery, said:

“Standing in a field of nearly a million oak saplings is a feeling I will never forget. These are the ancient trees of the future, a new generation of oaks which if planted and cared for in the right place can bring joy and climate benefit for hundreds of years.”

James Murray-White, cofounder of Save the Oaks who recently spoke at the Cambridge Climate Change Zero Festival about the project, said: 

“This is a hopeful radical act of love for the planet for now and going forward to the future. Wherever you plant your oaks, in a shelter belt or in the pockets and corners of the land you have available, we encourage you to care and nurture a relationship with them – through simple things like holding a planting ceremony.”

Cambridge based ecologist Kevin Hand, who for many years ran the government-backed National Tree Week, said “We hope this will highlight all the positive, creative work which Extinction Rebellion groups do to combat climate heating and extinction of wildlife, locally and globally. The Covid crisis can be viewed as yet another symptom of us humans interacting negatively with nature.”

Notes to editors

For media:

Phone: +44(0)7479234522 /  +44(0)7734951080 / +44(0)7934023613


Links: Save the Oaks media archive (photos, graphics, videos)websitefacebook

Extinction Rebellion rewilding facebook group

  2. ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ – comment piece in the Ecologist by James Murray-White and Lucy Michaels on behalf of Save the Oaks 
  3. ‘Alarming’ extinction threat to Europe’s trees 

Extinction Rebellion Rewilding (XRR)

XRR is a rewilding wing of Extinction Rebellion, with over 15K members on facebook. 

Our aims are to rewild and regenerate. To plant trees. Create forest gardens. Rewilded landscapes. Encourage community permaculture and sharing. Reforest moors. Flourish wild inner landscapes.

We actively seek to reach out & collaborate with individuals and environment-focussed groups who share similar aims. We share our visions. You can find us on Facebook.

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